The Difference Between Separation and Divorce

An illustration of divorce

No one enters a marriage expecting to get divorced or separated, but unfortunately, that is sometimes the reality. If you find yourself in the midst of a divorce or separation, you probably feel a range of emotions, from sadness to anger to relief. It can be a tough time, but remember that you are not alone.

If you need a family law lawyer or divorce lawyer, contact Nanda & Associate Lawyers.

An illustration of a family law lawyerWhen a couple decides to end their marriage, they have several options. They can either stay married but live apart, get a legal separation, or divorce. What’s the difference between these three options? Let’s take a look.


As the name suggests, divorce is the legal end of a marriage. Once a couple gets divorced, they are no longer married and will have to go through the process of remarrying if they wish to do so in the future. Because a divorce means the marriage is over, it is generally the most difficult of the three options for couples to consider.

Legal Separation

A legal separation is when a couple remains married but lives apart. It is sometimes seen as a trial period before a divorce, but it can also be a permanent arrangement. Couples who choose legal separation usually do so for religious reasons or because they want to remain married for insurance purposes.

Stay Married but Live Apart

This option is exactly what it sounds like—the couple stays married but lives in separate homes. Depending on the couple’s situation and desires, this arrangement can be temporary or permanent. Couples who choose this option often do so because they want to remain married but cannot or do not want to live together.

An immigration lawyer discussing registration details with a clientThe Key Differences

While divorce, legal separation, and staying married but living apart all involve living separately from your spouse, there are some key differences.


  • A divorce is a legal process that ends a marriage.
  • To get a divorce, you must file a petition with the court and have the divorce granted by a judge.
  • Once you are divorced, you are no longer considered married in the eyes of the law.
  • You will need to divide your property and finances as part of the divorce process.

Legal Separation

  • A legal separation is a formal process whereby a couple remains married but lives apart.
  • To get a legal separation, you must file a petition with the court outlining the terms of your separation.
  • The court will then approve or reject the terms of your legal separation.
  • If approved, you will be legally separated but still considered married. This means you will still need to divide up your property and finances as part of the process.
  • You may choose to reunite with your spouse at any point, nullifying the legal separation.

A family lawyer in Brampton talking to parentsStaying Married but Living Apart

  • This does not require any legal action or filing with the court.
  • You and your spouse simply live at separate residences with no intention of reuniting.
  • You are still technically married, so you would need to go through the process of getting a divorce if you ever wanted to marry someone else.

Which Option is Better, Depending on the Circumstances?

Although every situation is different, some general guidelines may help you decide which option is best for your particular circumstance.

If you are still on reasonably good terms with your spouse and believe that there is a chance you may reconcile in the future, then staying married but living apart may be the best option. This way, you can remain legally married while living independent lives. If you eventually decide to divorce, you will already have a separation agreement in place.

If you want to live apart from your spouse but do not want to get a divorce, then a legal separation may be the best option. This allows you to live separately while still being married and retain certain benefits, such as health insurance coverage through your spouse’s employer. However, it is important to note that a legal separation does not end your marriage; if you later decide to divorce, you must go through the divorce process.

If you are certain you want to end your marriage and have no intention of reconciling, then getting a divorce would be the best option. This will allow you to move on with your life; if you choose to remarry, your new spouse will not be considered a bigamist.

What are the Legal Implications of Divorce, Legal Separation, or Married but Living Apart?


No matter what you and your spouse decide, there are legal implications. If you are married but living apart, you are still considered married in the eyes of the law. This means you are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as any other married couple, including the right to file joint tax returns and the responsibility to file for divorce if you choose later.

If you get a legal separation, on the other hand, you will no longer be considered married. This means that you will not be able to file joint tax returns, but you will still be responsible for any debts you and your spouse have incurred during your marriage.

Finally, if you get divorced, you will no longer be considered married, and all of the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage will be terminated.

What Lawyers Do You Need?

To get a divorce, legal separation, or to stay married but live apart, you will need two lawyers:

  • A family lawyerto represent you and help you understand your legal rights and options.
  • A divorce or family lawyerfor your spouse.

You may also need a lawyer to help with child custody and visitation issues if you have children.


If you are facing separation or divorce, it is critical to understand the difference between the two. This blog post has highlighted the key differences. If you are facing either separation or divorce, we can help. Contact us today to speak with a lawyer who can help you navigate the process and protect your rights. We also deal with other law services, including caregiver applications, common law sponsorship, family sponsorship, and more.

Disclaimer: This article is only intended for educational purposes and shouldn’t be used as a substitute for legal advice.




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